What are the different strains of malaria?
Malaria is caused by small, single-celled parasites called protozoans, and specifically ones of the genus Plasmodium. There are many, many species of Plasmodium, which infect a wide variety of different species, from lizards and birds to rodents, bats and primates. Of all the species of malaria, four main ones infect humans – these are P. falciparum, P. vivax, P. ovale and P. malariae. A fifth species, P. knowlesi, usually infects macaque monkeys in South East Asia but has been known to cross over to humans. Each of these species causes slightly different manifestations of the disease in humans, and even within the species, there are regional strains and variations. Probably the most distinct internal division within a malaria species is within P. ovale, where two sub-species are currently recognised: P. ovale curtisi and P. ovale wallikeri. These two forms are identical morphologically (that is, in the way they look under the microscope) but can be differentiated genetically.